The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled today that David Pruitt had properly been ruled ineligible to run for Beebe alderman because he’d been convicted of voting more than once in an election.
The court said the offense was an “infamous crime,” as defined by the Arkansas Constitution. He knowingly committed a dishonest act by voting when he was prohibited, the court ruled.
He was convicted of voting twice in 2016. He said it was an honest mistake.
Pruitt also argued that the criminal record sealing act says all rights and privileges are restored to those whose records are sealed. The Supreme Court said this was true “unless other specifically provided by law.” The court noted it had allowed a candidate for sheriff to run with an expunged hot check conviction. But the section on election law violations on which Pruitt was convicted says “any person convicted under the provisions of this section shall thereafter be ineligible to hold any office or employment in any department of this state.” There is no such language in the hot check law under which the sheriff’s candidate was convicted. The opinion by Justice Shawn Womack said:
With the inclusion of subsection (b)(2)(A), the General Assembly deliberately chose to exclude from public office all persons found guilty of election-related misdemeanors, regardless of whether the record is later sealed. Accordingly, we must conclude Pruitt is ineligible to hold the public office of alderman.
The lawsuit was filed to remove Pruitt from the ballot. The judge declined to do that and ordered the votes counted and the results certified. Pruitt won easily, but the Supreme Court mandate should reverse that outcome. Pruitt was elected over Linda Anthony, one of several city officials who sued, with 60 percent of the vote.
Pruitt’s attorney, Lana Fraser, in calling this case to our attention earlier noted that it has application to all public offices in the state. She noted, too, that Pruitt’s record was widely publicized and still voters in Beebe elected him by a wide margin over a long-time incumbent.